Tag Archives: Old Weather

A Change in the Weather

Today’s guest blog comes from Kathy Wendolkowski. Kathy contacted the Zooniverse development group at the Adler Planetarium asking for some some education materials relating to Zooniverse and online citizen science she could share with policy makers in her school district.  We had a great conversation about using Zooniverse projects for student service learning requirements.  Kathy is an Old Weather project volunteer since 2010.  She has 3 children, one currently a sophomore in high school.  

Well, I have been on the phone for 30 minutes and now I have a headache.  I have been speaking to a very nice young woman, but it seems she is the brick wall against which I have been banging my head.  I live in Montgomery County, Maryland which has one of the best school systems in the nation.  This school system is one that requires what are known as “Student Service Learning Hours” for graduation.  SSL hours involve some form of community service, and this summer I had what I consider to be a brilliant idea – Zooniverse projects would make perfect SSL opportunities, which has led me to my headache.

The standards for SSL hours in the Montgomery County Public School system were developed 15 years ago.  These standards do not even conceive of something like the Zooniverse.  To make this happen under the current standards for SSL projects, I need a sponsoring non-profit organization, a public place to meet, and most importantly, liability insurance.  Phew… it seems I have to change the idea of what is a SSL project.  It is a good thing that I love a challenge.

I do not mean to disparage current SSL projects – any form of service is a good thing, and knowledge can come from many different sources.  The Zooniverse, though, is an ideal example of what service and learning can be.  Here, you can help find a cure for cancer or discover a new planet.  You can read the actual ships’ logs or diary entries of servicemen fighting in World War I.  I am rendered speechless (a rare occurrence!) at the opportunities for Service and Learning offered by the Zooniverse.  So, I will take two aspirin and start phoning in the morning.  (Hey, I wonder if I can get SSL hours for this project?)

The Zooniverse Goes Historical

Today sees the launch of another Zooniverse project – and it’s something a little bit different. Old Weather asks you to journey back to the early years of the twentieth century, and comb through Royal Naval logbooks in search of climate data.

It’s surprising, but one of the major problems in testing models that predict the Earth’s climate is in obtaining decent historical data. Dedicated officers on board ship took readings every four hours, but in order for this information to be of use to climate scientists we need to turn it into a form computers can read – and that’s where you come in. The reward for doing this is following along with the voyages of the ships.

HMS Caroline

Most of our first set of logs comes from the First World War, but the stories include those of a range of historically-important ships including Battle of Jutland-survivor HMS Caroline, which is still in existence in Belfast (see above image), HMS Defence and HMS Invincible, which were both blown up at Jutland with the loss of most of their crews.

We also have the records of less well-known ships including HMS Dwarf, which on service in the Cameroons in 1914 suffered a boat attack similar to the one mounted by Humphrey Bogart’s character in the movie The African Queen, and river gunboats such as HMS Gnat, HMS Mantis and HMS Moth which patrolled the Rivers Tigris and Euphrates in a military expedition to Iraq.

Whichever ship you choose to join, we hope you’ll enjoy taking a trip with Old Weather. What’s the weather like when you are?

[The image on this post is of the HMS Caroline as she is today, in Belfast docks. This image is courtesy of Flickr user weelise]